The reason you can't wander into a gun shop and buy a gun, unless you have a licence, is because the thing is a lethal weapon, and in the wrong hands will kill. So why can anyone walk in off the street and buy gas equipment, boilers, valves the lot?
Surely allowing any old Tom, Dick or Henrietta to get hold of this really dangerous kit is completely insane? Just like guns, when it's used wrongly people end up dead. Death from monoxide poisoning may be less violent than a bullet, but dead is still dead!
Sure, there are some merchants who refuse to sell to anyone unless they can prove they are Gas Safe Registered, but it's by no means all of them. It is also true that while you might be able to buy gas equipment legally, you cannot install it.
But once a cowboy gas fitter or over enthusiastic amateur has taken possession of the potentially lethal technology the law is powerless to save lives. All that can be done from this point onwards is to prosecute after the fact, which if we're lucky will be for carrying out illegal gas work. However all too often such prosecutions occur after a tragedy, and for manslaughter.
I recently read a story about a man from Birmingham who carried out illegal and dangerous work on gas boilers at two properties. At the first property, he had failed to fix the flue to the boiler correctly (meaning a carbon monoxide leak was highly probable), and in the second home, wiring installed was so dangerous it had the potential for pipes to become live. This guy was not registered with Gas Safe and secured work by giving the managing agents of the homes he worked on out-of-date registration documents.
He was ordered to carry out 80 hours' unpaid work and pay costs of £1,270. That's not a huge punishment for gambling with human life, is it? And what punishment to the retailers who irresponsibly (albeit perfectly legally) sold him the gas equipment?
The truth of the matter is there's only one opportunity to protect people from this dangerous legal anomaly and that's to make it illegal to buy gas equipment without a Gas Safe ticket. We have built ourselves a pretty decent safety system to protect people from monoxide poisoning, so why do we insist on retaining a bloody great big hole in the net?
I'm speaking from experience here, as you would not believe the number of unsafe homes our engineers are called out to on a daily basis. The lives of my employees are put at risk when they have to repair the dodgy work.
I hope the credible tradespeople across the UK will support my call to action. The law needs to be changed urgently because this is something that will save lives.